Google Powermeter is a new software tool that has been developed to help people track and analyze their home energy usage. The tool will provide a graphical interface that shows, in real time, how much electricity your house is pulling in from the grid. The pictures Google have made public indicate that the software will help you identify how much of your total energy usage is being made by each individual component in your house. Using energy intensive utilities like dish washers and kettles will provide a characteristic spike in your electricity usage so you will be able to identify the electrical footprint of all the utilities in your house. Knowing Google, there will be a few unexpected extras thrown in there as well. It’s currently still in beta but it is slowly starting to become available to more and more people.
So why is energy usage monitoring important? Studies have shown that the mere act of measuring energy will actually cause energy usage to drop by an average of 5-15%. This is presumably because many energy saving actions will become very obvious. If you can see in a simple visual format the effect of running a dish washer or dryer you will immediately realize its a good idea to only run them only when they are full.
Why is Google getting involved in this? Google understands that when it comes to the environment the stakes are high and has always set a good example of corporate social responsibility. If each household in America used PowerMeter and got a 10% saving in energy usage because of it that would be the equivalent of taking more than 17 million cars off the road. Not bad for a simple software tool that is relatively inexpensive and simple to implement. The savings for consumers are also huge. One Google engineer in the video below claims to have dropped his bill by 64% and saved almost $3,000 already.
This is exactly the philosophy behind the project. In order to change something you need to be able to measure it. Google is going to arm you with the information you need to understand your energy usage, therefore enabling you to make the most effective changes to reduce it. Google will provide many tips on what you can do to save energy (and money) and the collaboration between users will be very exciting: sharing energy saving actions; calculating how effective each action is based on feedback from many people’s PowerMeter results; detailed aggregate data of energy usage; are just a few ideas that come to mind.
At the moment Google is forging partnerships with utility companies to bring the service to the public. If you use any of these providers, then you should be able to test out PowerMeter right away. In the US the partners are JEA in Florida, TXU Energy in Texas and San Diego Gas & Electric. We are considering switching our provider in our California office to San Diego Gas & Electric in order to take advantage of this. This google map of utility providers that use ‘smart grid’ technology is likely to be a good indication of the utility companies that will adopt PowerMeter in the future, as such technology is required to make it work.